How much fuel is left in the world?

In London when I was much younger there were two fellows who walked around with sandwich boards, not because of their occupations, but as a result of their preoccupations. One chap’s board had a message that warned against the eating of beans and pulses, which according to this chap were at the root of all lasciviousness and evil. The other chap’s message was, at the front of his board, “the end of the world is nigh”. He wanted to tell the population of London that the world was about to end. On the back of his board the message read “prepare to meet thy doom”.Now, in environmental terms I do not think that the end of the world is nigh or that we should prepare to meet our doom, save to the extent that our inevitable individual endings require us to spend some of our lifetimes preparing for death. I do think, however, that we are getting remarkably close to having, by circumstances to embrace a different life than the lives that we have embraced for the past couple of hundred years, or so. If I had a sandwich board, what message would be on it?

Our lives as we now live them are for almost all of the developed and developing worlds, founded upon energy. We turn on a switch or a tap, and we have electricity to power ingenious machinery for comfort pleasure and well being, or else hot water comes out of the tap or heat or cooling air. We have built a very large pyramid founded upon energy and the foundation has been the supplies of fuel that we have burnt for the past two hundred and fifty years.

Those supplies of fuel are running out. Here are my predictions with links to my reasoning in more detail:-


I think that there are about sixty years left  

 Natural Gas

I think that there are around thirty five years left  


I think that there are forty years left  


I think that there are thirty five years left.

 Biomass and Bio crops for fuel

These are finite and growing them restricts land available for food and thereby forces up food prices. Many of them have adverse environmental effects, causing great damage. You can see my thoughts about bio fuels below, and I have written extensively about biomass and trees; these links are numerous; to see them just put “biomass” into the WordPress search facility on the blog.

 Solar, Wind, Tidal, Geothermal

These are unlimited, in terms of our human experience. Astronomers seem to think that the sun (the source of these kinds of energy) will last another five billion years. Let us be very cautious and say perhaps we have enough to last us five hundred million years.

 So, on one side of my sandwich board is the message “The end of fossil fuel is nigh” and the other side says “Prepare to meet renewable energy”.

9 Responses

  1. Starting around 2012 there will be an oil supply crunch that will push prices back up way over the $147 a barrel we saw in the Summer of 2008. The resulting huge rise in gas/petrol and commodities will probably cause an energy induced Depression that will last for most of the next two decades.

    Since renewables are likley to always be more expensive than the energy sources they replace* its highly unlikley that we will ever recover the same civilisation we now have. If we survive into the 30s and 40s it will be a very different world that our children inherit. My main fear for this century is that although the fossil fuels will be gone the Billions of people they currently help feed will not…

    Regards, Nick.

    *If this where not so why are we still using oil?

    • Renewables are more expensive, the way we count things now. When we use oil, for example, we leave behind an unpaid bill, which future generations will have to pick up, or face the consequences.


  2. You have missed out the single most important alternative, water power, this flows down every river non stop and has done so for thousands of years now
    the wind doesn’t always blow, the water inmost large rivers does and we are having wetter summers each year, water turbines are much cheaper to construct and service the wind mills, and the water goes straight back down the river.

    As Nick says there will be a time when the oil crisis is going to push fuel to a tenner a gallon stage, this will be made worse when the powers to be failin Afganistan, we will eventually be replaced by the Yanks and another Vietnam will come to pass, the USSR failed with their huge resorces what chance do you think we will have.
    If we fail to control this region then we are handing the wealth to these armies and another take over will be impossible, this is why the freindly forces went in when they did.
    This time it will be very much diferent because the wealth in the Indian and Pakistani region will be many times greater and a steady supply of hardware will be available, making a 20 year war feasable, wnen what oil has gone there so will the armies too.

    Its time to take stock and tell everyone just how much oil is left, they know exactly how much is left, they have 3D software to see it.

    Four of the worlds biggest oil fields are now in decline and the reason why we are today in constant resolution for the black stuff, the future is not so clear cut, without it we are going to loose the greater part of mankind to starvation, food is where its all going to happen, tool up because your going to need it,learn new skills which will help keep yourself alive, if you can survive for the first three months at the end of oil, you just might have a fighting chance.

    • If we harness water power we adversely affect the environment if we create dams. Also changing the rates of flow (which turbines will do) will also affect the environment. Unfortunately we are diverting too much water into irrigation making some rivers have almost no flow at their estuaries.
      I do agree with the general thrust of your comments about oil.


  3. A single barrel of oil cost about a dollar to extract from the ground and gives us the same energy as does 12 people working for a whole year, this is why we are still using oil, if it cost the same as those twelve they would probably leave it where it l
    The four largest oil fields have now passed the point of no return and no more exploration, which I might add has declined over 78% since the first quarter of 2009, and they keep it a secret of how much is actually left, we are all in big trouble.

    If we could proove this today these people would already be in prison for crimes against humanity, because a lack of oil will end many innocent lives, especially those who are not prepared for any fast changes.

    The people with the power and the money must realise that if we go down, so will their armies and them too, because they need us to grow their food and fight their wars, what goes around comes around, things will change but very slowly after the shock of not enough food to go around.

    Less can most definately be more, its gonna be life, but not as we know it Jim.

  4. Hi Robert

    When I say water power I am pointing not towards the larger route via large dams estuary etc, but many smaller units upon the many thousands of rivers in britain, here in Yorkshire there used to be 15 mills in only a mile and a half of that river, the water simply moved from one to the other and then onwards to the sea.

    A larger amount of producers are much better at supplying the power, if a few were ever out of action for service or repairs, nothing would be noticed, take out a large producer and many would suffer..

    Our aging nuclear infastructure is set for closures, Hartlepool and Heysham are already off line, and another in Anglesey and others are due to close soon power cuts this year are a real possibility this year.

    If we had any shock shortages from gasprom etc, we would be in real trouble, we must start standing on our own two feet soon, or we are in real danger of loosing out especially throughout the winter months when spikes can occur, we have been at logger heads with the east for over 70 years, what makes one think thet Russia would think twice about turning off the supply.

    As our energy supply gets more expensive we are going to have to de-industrialise and repopulate the country, do more manual labours to grow the food we need, the older skills on all fronts must be brought back.

    Cuba has already gone through this scenario, with sanctions and post oil due to the collapse of the Russian economy in the 90’s, we must look towards these facts before it happens to us.

    Start learning the old skills now for our tomorrows, if you have a needed skill like shoe making, tanneries
    you will be in demand, communities are the best way around any problems, we need to get rid of the middle man, supermarkets, all that waste our energy transporting things around the globalised echonomy.

    • Hi Davy

      Of course, small is beautiful and small, carefully though out water turbines can play an important part in prodcung benign energy.
      Your 100% right; we must stand on our own two feet.


  5. Touching on the dam scenario, these are also quite limited in themselves because of the natural silting process, and concrete has a fairly short life span.

    Larege bodies of water can indeed produce huge amounts of power, but repairing these systems can be non productive, especially if there shelf life is cut short due to enviornmental dissasters, it would be much better if we put our eggs in many different home grown baskets, instead of stealing other nations resorces, as we are doing today.

    As I have mentioned before, many smaller units are much better in the long term, the larger companies are getting the lions share of the existing smaller producers but get a measly 10 % for their troubles and if the widmill ain’t turning the get nothing.

  6. […] How much fuel is left in the world? | Robert Kyriakides’s … – Jun 19, 2009 · In London when I was much younger there were two fellows who walked around with sandwich boards, not because of their occupations, but as a result of their …… […]

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